Tend-and-Befriend: Top 5 Tips for Managing Anxiety
Anxiety. Most women experience it in some form during their lifetime. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada sites that women experience anxiety more frequently than men.
Women take on a lot in a day...work, meals, commuting, family, kids, friends, grocery shopping, (& now social media). We did not evolve to multitask to this extent. Women have a biological tendency to use hormones, (like oxytocin and progesterone), to decrease anxiety, and cope with stress by "tending-and-befriending", rather than the traditional theory of "fight-or-flight" (originally this research was based on men and extrapolated to women...[not] shockingly, there's a difference). That's right. We are hard-wired for support and community. What happens when we feel isolated, unsupported, and pulled in too many directions? Anxiety.
Symptoms of anxiety include:
- difficulty concentrating or focusing
- rapid breathing
- racing heart
Anxiety can change the way you interact with the world, altering choices about going out in public, going to work, or spending time with friends. It is overwhelm. It is fear without immediate danger. Stuck in sympathetic nervous system discharge (the traditional "fight-or-flight", now "tend-and-befriend" response), without an adequate way of dealing with the stress, (remember we physiologically desire to create community and nurturing friendships, as a response to stress).
How can we better cope with anxiety when we feel like there's no time or emotional resources for building community?
1. Go to a class. Find a yoga class, a dance class, an art class, a language class...find something that already has a gathering of people with like-minded interests. Simply being in a room, and moving or learning with others opens the door to connection and community.
2. Breathe. Truly. Breathe and watch your breath for 5 inhales and 5 exhales. Breathe to expand your entire rib cage, including the lower portion and sides. Breathing using your diaphragm supports a calmer nervous system, encouraging a switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic states.
3. Make tea. Self-nurturing sends signals to your brain and nervous system that you are paying attention to the need for more love and patience with yourself. Take time. Boil filtered water. Use loose leaf tea or a beautiful tea that looks, tastes, and smells divine. Nighttime teas can be sipped during the day, as they are usually full of calming nervine tonic herbs like skullcap, lavender, chamomile, passionflower, and lemon balm.
4. Call, (yes, old school VOICE call), a friend or family member whom you connect with. Someone who "gets" you. Maybe you call them from your car while commuting (because once you're home, there won't be "time"), maybe you arrange a time that works for both of you. However you do it, CONNECT. Share. Love.
5. Find a healthcare professional who will listen, and support you in managing your anxiety. Depending on the level of anxiety, a psychologist who uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy may be the best route. Naturopathic doctors also have an extensive tool kit for supporting women with anxiety. Bloodwork and a physical assessment is essential, as is nutrition.
For more information on how hormones can impact your hormones, grab my free guide here.
1. Cardoso, Christopher, et al. "Stress-induced negative mood moderates the relation between oxytocin administration and trust: evidence for the tend-and-befriend response to stress?." Psychoneuroendocrinology 38.11 (2013): 2800-2804.
2. Taylor, Shelley E., et al. "Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight." Psychological review 107.3 (2000): 411.
3. Youssef, Farid F., et al. "Sex differences in the effects of acute stress on behavior in the ultimatum game." Psychoneuroendocrinology (2018).